Review: Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

I’ve been meaning to review this one for a while, because I really want there to be more YA in my life written by Canadians and set in Canadian places. (This one happens mostly in Northern Ontario, although it’s not all forests and mosquitoes, I promise.)

It wasn’t exactly the most seasonal read, given that it’s about a summer camp, but catching up to the backlist is important enough to me that I can try to drink tea and overlook that for the time being. (I may or may not want to sink into some comforting re-reads for the holidays, so I may or may not be eating my literary vegetables, aka reading books I’ve owned for too long, right now.)

In any case: let’s get to it!

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

I ordered my copy of this book ages ago from Book Depository, so I have an exceptionally ugly and not at all thematic UK cover that I don’t even want to put here. This one is much more on point, so.

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined

Speaking of: so this book is about Ingrid, who has headed off to a summer camp at the behest of her mother, who will only allow her to attend arts school and pursue a future in theatre if Ingrid does this. (Doesn’t this cover express that so efficiently? Anyway.) However, Ingrid quickly finds out this isn’t just any summer camp: it’s a tough survival trek with at-risk youth.

This book is…fine. Okay, so probably I need to say a lot more than that. Here goes: this book is of a somewhat average YA length, not overly short, but it tries to cover too many bases.

One of those bases is that there are a whole lot of characters, and a lot of them seem like they should have more of an impact than they do or that readers should really care about them, but I never felt like I really got the opportunity to know them very well. There’s Ingrid’s mother, who leaves this feeling behind most bitterly, but also Ingrid’s other parental figure, the other kids at Ingrid’s camp (especially a few of the other girls and the potential love interest), the other love interest from Ingrid’s past, Ingrid’s best friend, etc. All of these people get very surface characterization, and Ingrid’s mother’s is often told and not shown, and it makes it hard to invest in the story.

There are also some awkward subplots, like the one in which sexual assault is used as a trope. Again. It isn’t the world’s worst use of “sexual assault as low-impact event to further plot and be forgotten about” (it isn’t a blatant excuse to have the character be saved by her love interest, at least, and the other characters remember it happened, even if it has minimal consequences) but it’s still kind of eye-rolling. Sexual assault isn’t there just for people to ~get closer~ and ~learn lessons~ in a book, like, this is a thing that holds trauma for real people, and…sigh. Anyway. (I’m trying to find a situation where there’s a book that includes an assault that isn’t totally about rape and rape culture and the inclusion of the assault is necessary and it’s dealt with satisfactorily in the narrative. I haven’t really gotten there.)

Another awkward subplot is that the people who run the wilderness retreat kind of seem like weird sadists in terms of how they force teens into risky situations with no training or guidance and there’s really no resolution to that, nor does it make any sense that anyone taking this retreat wouldn’t have brought that up before (but they seem totally taken aback by it? how).

Okay, but I said the book was fine. So what was fine about it? Well, Ingrid’s sarcasm about the whole situation was amusing. In general, Ingrid was a character with a decently strong voice, and her weak spots (her sense of privilege, her inability to let her walls down) were taken up in the narrative, so it was easy to like her. Her feelings about her mother were compelling, conflicting as they were. (Even though I didn’t feel I knew her mother well enough for that presence to be so strong in the book, I could relate to Ingrid’s feelings about her easily because of how they were portrayed.) Her deep internal rage re: having to take care of her mother instead of the other way around was tangible and easy to sympathize with. And I wanted to like a lot of the other characters on the retreat, even though I didn’t get to know them very well. (And Ingrid’s other parent figure, too.) I feel like we did get strong senses of people’s general personalities and what they felt in the moment, so as a character-driven story this felt like it had flashes of…insight?

But overall, it was pretty hard to invest in. The plot is basically just that everyone is learning to be better people by toughing it out (a little more toughly than necessary) in the woods while thinking about their sad backstories, but then we don’t really get all of the sad backstories or get to know all of the people with the sad backstories or get to know all of the people from just the protagonist’s sad backstory. So it doesn’t really make it to the emotional deep-dive level it needs to make the ending (which should’ve been very emotional) land.

Overall: 


Welp, sadly, this isn’t the Canadian YA that’s going to set me on a path of raving about the authors of my province. Any Canadian YA you have to recommend? Or how about YA from your non-US/UK country? (I’m looking at you, Australians.) Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!

Review: Bone Gap by Susan Ruby

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

It’s shaping up to be a super busy December as well, but luckily, it has some commuting and travel in it for me, and those are good times to fit some reading in. To dig back into it this month, I decided to crack another magical realism book, since I seem to be really enjoying this genre.

Bone Gap by Susan Ruby

This cover is fine, by the way. I feel like it’s probably hard to capture the feel of this book in a cover, since there are a lot of important plants/animals in this one. I like the title font. (Okay, I’m going to work on my cover analysis, since I seem to be doing it.)

Bone Gap

Bone Gap is about Bone Gap, a small town in Illinois that’s mostly a farm community, with lots of corn, cows, and honey. The community is rocked with the disappearance of the beloved outsider, Roza, who once showed up in the O’Sullivan barn and became a part of their family and of the town. Finn, the only witness to her disappearance, is unable to adequately describe the man who took her away. The book mostly flips between the perspectives of Finn and Roza, with a few other characters (like Finn’s love interest, Petey) getting a turn.

I enjoyed this book, but—okay, it was short, but not incredibly short. But it had gaps, if I’m being honest. The brother relationship between Finn and Sean seemed important, but Sean doesn’t seem like much of a character? He’s more of a suggestion of, story about a character told through other people’s observations. It makes him fail to be as likeable as everyone tells you he is, because he’s so inactive (and sometimes openly a jerk) in the story.

This book also fell a bit short in terms of creating the environment of the town, I felt. I didn’t get a total sense of what it might look like, what more of the people were like, a sense of what the status quo in the town was. There were a few minor characters given small moments or descriptions, but in comparison to, say, When the Moon Was Ours, I didn’t really have a picture in my mind of what daily life was like, about how the protagonists related to the people of the town. It felt a lot more “tell” than “show” in that aspect: for example, we’re told the names everyone calls Finn and we can see how he feels about it, but we don’t witness those interactions. We’re told the people of the town came to love Roza and there’s an impact to her leaving, but we don’t really get to see that.

As with most magical realism, this book doesn’t give much explanation for its magic. That’s not really an issue in terms of what happens with Roza, but it does get a little hairy in terms of the magic that happens for Finn. I think if you have magic that has a very loose explanation or none at all, but it’s always been that way, then it’s not too hard to swallow in magical realism. Magic with no explanation that’s new or has no precedent can be a little trickier. (Also, this book does a kind of weird thing where it gives a rational explanation for one “magic” thing that’s happening, and that could’ve been interesting but kind of undermined the perspective of that character, which made other magic stuff he claimed seem more fake…even though it wasn’t? That kind of felt unnecessary.)

So why did I enjoy this book, anyway? Well, Roza is a pretty great character. She learned when she was younger to desire respect, independence, and knowledge over the adoration of others for how beautiful she is, and she’s fierce to fight against the awful men who covet her (and try to hurt her). Roza is great, even if I wish she got to actively do and say more in the story. (This is particularly a thing in Roza’s plotline, but it’s also a common symptom in magical realism: a lot of atmosphere, not a lot of characters Doing and Saying Things. I like the atmosphere, but I do wish there were more of a balance, and maybe at some point I’ll find me a magical realism that can do both.) Finn’s romance with Petey, the bee-keeping, sharp-tongued girl is also very sweet, although I could’ve done with spending more time in their conversations. These three characters are worth caring about, and the style of writing and description flows easily and is easy to read.

(I’m also starting to think that maybe I just have a bias in terms of magical realism? Like maybe I just really like it? I’m trying to keep that in mind so that I’m critical of my own…criticisms. And so I put these books in a context.)

Anyway, don’t pick up this book if you want a lot of action and characters saying things and major plot Happenings. Do pick up this book if you like books that rely heavily on style and character moments, although you’ll definitely get stronger character moments in The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender or When the Moon Was Ours. 

Overall:


Do you have some magical realism favourites? Or do you have a favourite not-as-popular YA genre, and what is it? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!

Eight YA Books I Liked Less Than Everyone Else, Part 2

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

I’m used to the idea of being the Blog of Unpopular Opinions, since more or less what I do is look for books that are getting super hyped and have good reviews, find those with a premise that interests me, order them, and then…critique them thoroughly. I’m hard on books. I get it.

That said, there are times when I find myself adrift in rave reviews and I am hunting down kindred spirits who also felt like the book I read wasn’t just TOTALLY AMAZING so that I can feel like I’m not alone, and these books were those that put me in that situation. (At least at the time I read them. I feel like enough people have read Caraval now that they don’t all think it was a gift.)

(And yeah, this is a part 2. This isn’t the first time I’ve exposed myself to the fan hate.)

(Also, buckle up, friends. It’s going to be a long post.)

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Don’t get me wrong, this author seems like a cool lady and I’m going to keep trying her books even though The Upside of Unrequited was also not my favourite of all reads. I might even see the movie based on this book, because why not? (Sometimes adaptations can change things for the better.)

But I just wasn’t that into this book? And it got so much love and so many rave reviews! But it keeps the mystery of who the protagonist’s secret admirer is so secret that the reveal of it is kind of anticlimactic, it invites us to sympathize with someone whose threat to publicly out Simon sets off the premise of the story, and it just generally…is okay. I just wasn’t that moved by this book. Sorry.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone SeasonI get it, the worldbuilding in the first part of this book is pretty cool, but dear sweet mother of all things holy why are people so forgiving of the slave/master romance that comes up in this book it is so gross IT IS SO GROSS why are there so many fans of this book that never acknowledge this AAAH.

Also like yes, the worldbuilding in the first part of this book is solid and I get invested in the main character but then we move off into a different setting that is much less developed and doesn’t, on the whole, seem to make a whole heck of a lot of sense? And yes, chances are in book two and so on that we’ll get more of the initial world that was actually interesting but do I want to go to there when a slave/master romance is unapologetically, unselfconsciously happening?

No, sir, I do not. WHY. (P.S. I read this during a reading marathon, so I never really reviewed it, but you can now imagine why my review wouldn’t have been a real good time.)

The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of DeceptionAt first I was pretty meh on the first book of this series, but then I kind of came around on the cleverness of its conceit, where it doesn’t tell you which of the protagonist’s love interests is which (the assassin sent to kill her, or the prince she ran away from marrying) and you’re left guessing until the end.

Then I was feeling all right about this series, because the second book does have a lot of worldbuilding about a specific setting that was kind of fun, which helped to overshadow some of the more annoying love triangle angst and so on.

But then we got to the third book, and the war between nations was happening really vaguely, and spares were getting paired off in silly ways, and EVERYTHING was reported speech (why, gods, why) and I was thinking, like, why did I spend over a thousand pages to get here. Why does this trilogy get rated so highly? Why do most trilogies only go downhill from their premise? What is best in life?

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

CaravalThis book was so hyped because of its premise (a mysterious, magical circus game you can play to solve a mystery and receive any wish), but it lived up to approximately zero percent of the hype for me.

It was one of those mysteries where the mystery doesn’t really make much sense so you can’t try to solve it as a reader, and everyone alternately lies to the protagonist or tells the truth so who knows and/or can care, really. There’s sexual assault thrown in and not really dealt with because that’s just a plot point to fly right by, am I right? There’s also instalove, very little worldbuilding or character development, and…yeah, I don’t know.

I couldn’t figure out why to read this book. It is a book on this list that isn’t just like, fine, but not for me. It is probably just bad. (Seeing later reviews of it, I think I’m not the only one in this corner, so that’s a huge relief.) I read this to the end expecting something to emerge from it, but nah.

We Were Liars by e. lockhart

We Were LiarsThe irony of this is that I quite liked the writing style that a lot of other people criticize. Yeah, it’s the hipster kind of intellectual-whimsical taken to almost a purple prose extreme, but I can jam with that sometimes.

What I couldn’t really get behind was spending all our time with hyper-privileged, unlikeable characters within the context of a mystery that doesn’t really give us a lot of clues to solve it and that has a twist ending that is fine, but not really satisfying in any meaningful way.

Mysteries are hard to write, okay. You have to give the audience some way of trying to figure out what’s happening and of going “HMMMM” after they receive information, but you also can’t just tell them too much or it’ll be boring until the end.

…so some people err on the side of telling you basically nothing so everything is SUPER MYSTERIOUS only that it means it’s really hard to invest in what’s happening so you have to like the characters, but I didn’t even like these jerks (well, other than Gat) so basically I finished this because it was short and the descriptive passages were nice. Like, it was fine. But I don’t understand people whose minds were blown.

(Was it their first twist ending? I guess we all have a first.)

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven BoysThis book was one of those that was just fine, but I just don’t see why it is so loved forever. Maybe I have to continue in the series? But I don’t know. Trilogies usually go downhill from the start, except in very exceptional cases. I don’t know if a quad of books is going to work any better for me.

In this case, I think it was that we spent a lot of time focussing on the Raven Boys and not the other introduced main character, Blue, because the private school kids trying to give meaning to their trust fund lives through magic adventure are really not as lovable to me as the book wants them to be, whereas Blue in her household full of witchy psychic women is way, way more interesting. So yeah, this one might be on me, because angsty rich attractive white dude is just not my literary type at this point. I need a lot more than that to be there for that kind of character.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, EverythingI ended up really liking Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star, so again, this isn’t about the author. And honestly, there were aspects of this book I liked: Maddie had a great voice, and I dug her style of book reviewing.

But this book ended up being iffy in terms of representation because of its twist, it rushed through the emotional consequences after the twist, and it had a super abrupt ending. It just kind of…didn’t work. It had a great main character, but the plot and the fallout from the plot just did not go anywhere good.

I have seen some few peeps out there about how this book’s twist didn’t sit well with people, so I know that after the initial hype died down, people did talk about that. (That, or those voices often get drowned out in initial hype and it’s easier to find those reviews later when people have quietly upvoted and agreed those opinions into sight.)

Sarah J. Maas

This isn’t a book, but I’m just going to go there.

Why, Sarah J. Maas. I gave you a second chance after Throne of Glass, which I found pretty trope-y and uneven and sometimes boring. (Apparently an unpopular opinion because that’s like the YA fantasy series, but welp. That’s how I felt.)

A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy

I gave you a second chance after A Court of Thorns and Roses, which dragged in pace until the last hundred pages.

I thought I knew you in your best form when I got to A Court of Mist and Fury, which had some really bad sex scenes and a pairing-off mechanism I couldn’t stand and very little representation of anyone but white straight…faerie people, but also a lot of writing that sought to empower the female protagonist and allow her to do her own thing and there were some sweet settings and I was here for it.

And then I got to A Court of Wings and Ruin and there was a badly shoehorned-in queer character in what seemed like an awkward side paragraph and more needless pairing off and a total bellyflop of a spy plot and lots of dudes acting super possessive and gross because the soulmate trope means they “can’t help it” and moustache-twirling villainy and just in general, bleh, a not-very-satisfying end to a really uneven trilogy.

The worst part is, I kind of want to re-read the trilogy and see where it went wrong. I kind of wish I understood what it was that made me feel like so much good was happening and then it just didn’t work out. I feel like when I read Twilight and it was pretty bad but everyone said I should continue so I read New Moon and I started to think Bella would move on with Jacob and I might have a glimmer of hope in the series and I was happy and then the end came and I was like “WHAT WHY” and I read on hoping that the author would reel back but it only got worse and then I had to be like “WHY WHY” and delve into fix-it fanfiction for the rest of my life.

I wanted to be done being in anti-fandoms, Sarah J. Maas. Why did you have to do this to me?


Which super popular books have you felt medium about? Do you have any books you wanted to love and wish you could just…fix? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!

Monthly Reads: November 2017, Part 2

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

I didn’t make it on 30 books in 30 days, sadly. Not even close.

It was, weirdly, a larger time commitment than Nanowrimo has been on the years I actually won? I guess I should’ve anticipated that, because when you are excited about a novel and have it planned, a few hours a day should get 1,667 words done nicely. There is no stretch routine for 30 books, though. I can only read as fast as I can read, so all I can do to lessen the time it takes is read short books. And reading short books can get tiring, since, well, as you’ve all read in my reviews, a lot of short books are just that: short, but in a way that makes them feel abbreviated, not deliberate.

(That, and I had way more work than expected this month, so I didn’t really have the time like, at all.)

In any case: here’s the second half of the books I did manage to read. And five in half a month still beats the four I read in at least one summer month, so, there’s that about it. (I might also make my 100 books this year goal, too. So there’s also that.)

You Are Among Monsters by Jon R. Flieger

You Are Among Monsters

This is not a YA book at all, so yeah, I’m off-brand.

It was a short book, but actually not one that felt abbreviated, so that worked out nicely. It’s actually the latest book by a friend of mine who is a very morbidly funny guy, which you might anticipate after reading a novel about the mortuary arts (and failing at being an academic) that is alternately gross, sad, and also humorous. If you read stuff that’s more Canadian-adult-literary, check it out.

(Also: If you also dig this cover design, it’s by another friend of mine who you should definitely check out.)

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

American Street

This is a book about an immigrant girl, Fabiola, who comes to Detroit to live with her aunt and her cousins, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, especially since her mother gets stopped at immigration.

This book was reasonably good; I liked Fabiola and how she translated her beliefs and values to her new landscape in order to find something of herself in her Detroit life. But it was definitely a short book that felt abbreviated because it tried to do a lot: culture shock, a handful of familial relationships, romance, friendship, magical realism, crime drama, etc. I get it: a lot of books like this try to do a lot because teenagers, especially those in extenuating circumstances, are overwhelmed by how much is going on. But in book form, this doesn’t always stick the landing quite as well. It gets too busy, not all of the characters get the development they should, and big moments don’t hit as hard as they could.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys

I did it. I finally read one of the most beloved YA contemporary fantasy books in the blogosphere. (I wasn’t that into it. Don’t mob me.)

This book is about Blue, who grew up not-psychic in a family of psychics, and the Raven Boys, a group of boys from a nearby private school who are investigating ley lines and the tomb of a legendary Welsh king. This book basically sets up a couple of main plots but then goes on a couple of side plot adventures, which would be kind of okay if we really got to know and cared about all of the characters doing that. I didn’t really (I could’ve just done with more Blue hanging around the house with all the women), so this wasn’t really my scene.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

This was a magical realism novel about three generations of women in the Roux family. Emilienne, Viviane, and Ava all have their own particular magics, although Ava’s is the most visible: she’s born with wings.

This book was beautifully written stylistically. With its explorations of love across generations, it often felt more adult-literature than particularly YA, which was a little confusing. The emotional beats of this story have strong messages, but don’t land as much as they could because there isn’t a lot of time to fully develop the secondary characters involved in them, or even the relationships between these three women. It was good, but not as amazing as it could’ve been.

American Girls by Alison Umminger

American Girls

This book is about Anna, who feels invisible to her parents and runs away to escape their lack of notice and the changes in her life. It’s also about LA, her older sister Delia and her life, and the research she takes on about the Manson girls for a screenplay. It’s also about the bad things people do that can lead them down awful roads, and about the way some attention and forgiveness might bring them back.

In theory, this book was great. It very much digs into the setting of LA, with poverty next to wasteful wealth, the perils and thrills of Hollywood, and so on. It slowly unravels some weighty concepts on the way people hurt one another. In practice, though, beyond the conceptual, the book didn’t spend long developing most of the main relationships (between Anna and her sister, her mother, her love interest, etc.), so there were a lot of great potential messages without much reason for emotional investment.


What were your reads this month? Any new favourites? Or were you too busy doing Nanowrimo? (Did you win?) Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!

Top Eight Books on My Winter TBR

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

As the Stark words say, Winter is coming, and it’s time for me to start considering which books I’ll curl up with against the long, cold nights. My time of TBR shaming is coming to a…middle, since I’ve knocked off five books so far this month from those neglected past-TBR ones, so I can start looking forward to what’s next.

Winter 2017 TBR

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap

I don’t really know anything about this book other than that I’ve been enjoying magical realism in YA lately, and this book is supposed to be the magical realism book in YA (or at least, it’s the one that a lot of people seem to review very highly). I picked it up some time ago, but it’s definitely on my upcoming reads radar while I keep on with this genre.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

The Weight of Feathers

Speaking of magical realism—I dug McLemore’s When the Moon Was Ours, so it’s time soon to read her much-more-talked-about The Weight of Feathers. It’s not her newest, but I gambled in picking it up a while ago (I don’t usually buy an author twice before trying them once, but hey), and now I’m glad it’s waiting for me!

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

The Book of Dust

So I did a whole re-read of the His Dark Materials series last month or so to get ready for this book release, then got my pre-order in the mail and promptly realized that I wasn’t really ready to go back. I mean, what if I don’t like this book? How will it make me feel about a beloved series from my childhood? …but yeah, also I want to know what happens, so with some distance, I want to pick this up this winter and catch up.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Renegades

I nabbed this one a little while ago for second chance reads. (It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to do a new post on that series; I’ve been reading a lot of authors new to me, I think!) I didn’t hate the Lunar Chronicles, but it definitely had culturally appropriative elements that were kinda iffy, and I got bogged down in the narrative bloat of ten billion (all coupled, all very hetero) characters by the end. I want to be impressed by this author because I found her through her Sailor Moon fanfiction, so I can’t help but want this relationship to work out.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin

For some weird reason, the hardcover of this book that I’ve ordered is coming out in January or something, so yes. Many people have read this already and I haven’t. Anyway, I’ve heard it’s a great read along the lines of The Hate U Give, though very much in its own element, and that’s a good selling point for me, because that book was one of few that I think lived up to its hype.

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Thunderhead

I read Scythe back in a reading marathon quite some time ago. The villain was a bit hammy in the evil, but other than that, it was a super good time, to the point where I’ve been anticipating this sequel, and that doesn’t happen much. I’m looking forward to this one in the early, snowy next year.

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch

This misunderstood-necromancer kinda tale has been out for a while now, but your reviewer here can’t always get free copies and hardcovers are $$$ so I waited for a paperback copy to jump in on this one. The reviews were mixed, but the premise sounds awesome: a girl accidentally raises her brother from the dead. Reviewing a lot of books means sometimes taking a chance on something as simple as that.

Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Heart of Iron

I honestly couldn’t tell you the first thing this book is about. I think it’s a space western? But Ashley Poston wrote Geekerella, one of the few fairy tale retellings I’ve read that was as fun as I wanted it to be. I’m ready to hop on board with her again and see if she can impress me even more.

 

 

 

 


What are you looking forward to reading when the snow flies? (Or not. I mean, we don’t all live in Canada.) Are any of these books on your list? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!

Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

Reading 30 books in 30 days hasn’t really been progressing as I wanted it to; I travelled to visit family and have had a heaping pile of work this month, so it hasn’t been easy to fit in a book every day! I’m still pretty happy, though, for how close I am to being on track to achieve my reading goal for the year and because I’ve tackled so much of my backlist.

Like this book, for example. I’ve been meaning to get around to it for a long time because a lot of reviewers really hyped it up for me, and, deciding I like magical realism in YA (thanks to When the Moon Was Ours. maybe), I finally got down to it.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

This cover is pretty nice. The title is too long. Not just because it’s a long title, though it is, but because I don’t really think it’s strictly necessary or super meaningful for this particular story.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is framed as a memoir by Ava Lavender, but that framing is mostly pretty weird because it includes things Ava wouldn’t have any reason to know and the book isn’t really about her until halfway through (when it still doesn’t cease to be about other characters).

Anyway, this book traces the lives of three women, primarily: Ava’s grandmother, Emilienne; her mother, Viviane; and Ava herself. It’s a magical realism tale, so there’s some amount of magic to all of them; Emilienne is able to read small signs, Viviane has a super-acute sense of smell, and Ava is born with wings. All of them have a complicated relationship with love, which finds its ways to hurt them. And all of those magical and emotional elements are interesting and dealt with very well, and by the end I was crying and feeling this book, but.

I’m torn about this book. I liked the style and the overall story, but it took me a while to get into it. It sometimes felt like it drifted through time without giving us a lot of time for build-up and character development. (Yes, it is a short book, okay. But it is also about three generations of women within about 300 pages, so I feel like this is a founded complaint.)

As a result, it was hard to get invested in certain characters and relationships, a fact that stole weight from the book later down the line. (I’m a broken record, but you have to give your readers reasons to feel the emotional beats of your novels by giving them reasons to invest in the joy or tragedy of what happens. Aka, give your readers reasons to know and care about characters.) Also, the fact that this book was framed as a memoir kind of interrupted my experience, because at no point do Viviane or Emilienne tell Ava certain stories, but according to the framing of the book, she is writing about them.

It also felt a little off to me that this book was framed as a YA novel. Towards the end, it is about Ava as a teenager, and it does follow the prior two generations during those coming-of-age years for some time, but the book often reads as older. I guess I can’t say it’s the subject matter (be warned: there is sexual assault/an assault and other mature moments, but YA often covers that), but the style and the way the focus often hones in on the adults of the novel made it feel more like…older YA, or just a regular novel. (This book reminded me in some ways of a CanLit novel I read in my youth, Away by Jane Urquhart, although I wasn’t too into that book compared to this one.)

In any case, this book was very charming in its own ways. The way each woman struggled with love was heartwrenching, and the imagery in the book was usually delightful. Its magic was very grounded, never explained, but never so splashy that it felt like it needed thorough explanation. This book also made me hungry, being so full of bakery imagery as it was.

Anyway: if you like lovely imagery, heartbreak, the lives of women, and magical realism in your more-mature YA, then you’ll probably enjoy this one, with the warning and caveat that it includes sexual assault. (It’s not super graphic and it’s not treated in a super-tropey way, but there are definitely disturbing moments before, during, and after.) It’s short in ways that do hamper it at points, but it has a certain something.

Overall:


Do you have any magical realism YA favourites? Do you have any YA favourites that read like they could be regular old…novels? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

Well. I finally did it. I caught up to 99% of the YA blogging world and read The Raven Boys. 

It’s times like these that I both doubt what I’m doing blogging and am so sure of myself at once. Like, why am I reviewing all of these books? But then also: I should definitely be reviewing all of these books.

Okay, I should explain. So let’s get to it.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

This cover is pretty terrible, by the way. This book isn’t even that old, so I have no idea why the bad font and this way-too-busy cover. And where the heck is Blue? We’re seriously portraying that one kid with no personality over the one female main character? But yeah.

The Raven Boys

So: The Raven Boys is more or less the story of what happens when four boys, students of a prestigious private school in town, meet up with Blue, the daughter of an eccentric family of psychics. They recruit her into their search for a Welsh king/figure of legend along a ley line that runs through their small town in Virginia.

Honestly, the magic system in this book feels kind of like it doesn’t give a dang about making much sense. Following where they’re going with that plot is a little iffy, but…whatever. There are fun portions of magic as well: Blue’s family of psychics are kind of delightful, for example, and if this book could’ve been entirely about that house of women and their styles of reading and magic, I would’ve been there for that. I also liked some of the imagery when they find some magical places.

I guess I was just surprised at how this book could simultaneously feel like a slog at times and also like it was moving way too fast? Like, Blue becomes friends with these boys within a time jump, essentially, without us getting much of the character development of their interactions or romantic vibes. But, for example, we also know Ronan is keeping more than one secret, and it feels like that is an agonizingly drawn out thing (we finally address the less pressing of them by the very end of this not-short book) considering that he’s a character who, at least in the first book, is mostly just a jerk.

So that was the thing for me with this book: I love modern urban (does it count if it’s a really small town?) fantasy. I love the idea of a girl with no psychic powers living in a family of psychics who live equally mystical and mundane lives. (The author grounds us nicely at times in Blue and her mother struggling to change lightbulbs, or one of the psychics getting a burrito after a hard time at her day job.) I liked Blue, generally, and especially her family; the quest they were all on seemed silly, but the way Blue came into it intrigued me.

But the titular raven boys were irritating to me. This is maybe a matter of bias, because I’m just not that interested by rich white guys struggling with their privilege, or “bad boys” with mysterious angst who get away with treating others like crap, or boys who are so full of pride that they can’t accept help from others even when they are straight-up drowning. (Or boys with no personalities, aka Noah.)

…so Gansey, perhaps the main protagonist of the protagonists, seems like he’s undergoing this search over great time (and eventually at great risk) for no reason other than that he’s a rich kid looking to make his mark on the world, until we get his semi-tragic backstory about it quite late. By that point, I was already feeling pretty meh on the character, since despite his inclination to always help his friends, he was also super oblivious and privileged and unintentionally condescending. He was trying not to be, so I guess that was something? But his reasons for pulling everyone into what he was doing came pretty late, and I guess it was hard for me to get invested in the struggles of a guy trying to be less stereotypically old money. He was okay to me by the end, but I would’ve dropped the book early had it just been about him, and I wouldn’t regret it.

Ronan did precisely one thing that I appreciated him for in the book. I tried to give him leeway because he was clearly angsty about the death of his father, which is legit, but he was kind of an ungrateful asshole with more money than sense mostly making life harder for everyone at all times? Which probably is something I could overlook or understand if we knew from earlier on the circumstances of his father’s death or some of the inward stuff he’s struggling with, but like I said re: slogging, we don’t get any of that early on. We are supposed to care that Ronan continues to hang out with these guys because Gansey cares about that. So I dangled by a thread.

Adam seemed like the most interesting of the group, since Noah wasn’t really given a personality at all (and that became problematic when we were supposed to care about Noah more later on). Adam is…probably the easiest to relate to if you didn’t also grow up with a garage full of million-dollar cars, but frustrating in his own ways. Early in the book, he expresses an interest in Blue and it’s a slog trying to see that go somewhere. It’s also tiring seeing Adam sabotage himself.

I get it, I guess. These are all meant to be flawed, angsty, tragic figures of dudes. Only it’s really obvious the different stuff sought out in male and female protagonists when you line up these rich (except Adam), stubborn, prideful, arrogant (except Adam), handsome guys in contrast to Blue. Male protagonists are meant to be charming and desirable in their flaws. (Bad boys are lovable and can be easily redeemed.) Female protagonists are almost-flawless or else direly disliked. Blue is cautious and so not always totally open, but she’s well-intentioned, curious, self-sufficient, otherwise all positive traits. (She somehow holds down three jobs and still helps her family and still makes her own clothes.) But she still fades into the background as an acting force in this story (she doesn’t actively do or even get to decide much, since so much is “fated”) because…she’s not one of the boys?

(There’s a pattern here not dissimilar to the Wolves of Mercy Falls series: the male love interest is deeply intelligent, poetic, angsty, “desirable”; the female protagonist is just a girl who “gets” it and is enough of an outcast in her own life to slot right into the guy’s. Is this a super cynical reading? Maybe. Is it far off? I don’t think so.)

This character patterns here kind of bored me, even as I did enjoy every time we looped back around to Blue’s house and the mysteries among the women there. And when Ronan finally did reveal one of his secrets in the end, I almost just felt pissed at him. Also, this book mostly sets up more mysteries rather than resolving the two main plots it introduces in the beginning, so on its own, it’s kind of a medium book, all the rest aside. Maybe in the context of the series, it gives you a lot to be excited about, but I’d have to read the sequels to then reflect back and enjoy some of these elements, which is a bit of an ask when I’m not feeling the characters that much.

I don’t know. This is a book I could read the sequel of or just…not. Probably just not.

Overall:


WELP there are my controversial opinions on the almost-universally-blogger-beloved The Raven Boys, I may never work in this town again, etc. Console me: are there any books everyone loved that you just can’t get into? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon! (Presuming the legions of Ronan fans don’t come rolling in to Internet-deck me.)

Eight YA Reads About Grief, Ranked

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

I’m actually not reading loads of books about grief this month, or at least, I think I’m not. (Maybe two is a lot already.) But it seemed about time to make this post before it ended up being a monster, because as time goes on, I’m seeing more and more YA contemporaries coming out that are all about dealing with grief.

It makes sense that grief is always hanging over YA, because YA is basically the genre of dead parents. But there’s a thread through YA, particularly recently, where books are specifically about people working through the loss of a loved one. Here are more than a few that I’ve read, and where I’d rank ’em if you’re thinking of getting into the subject. (Although I have to admit, this ranking was tough.)

(Also: I wanted to include The Lovely Bones but it’s been several years since I read that and I can’t remember if it’s that good. Is it? Maybe I should re-read? Anyway.)

1. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You the SunThis was one of my top books of 2016 and it might be among my favourite YA contemporaries, so.

This one frames the event of twins, Noah and Jude, who have lost their mother. One tells the story leading up to her death, while another tells the story of what happens after. The loss shatters their uniquely close friendship, but they have to find a way to make their way back to each other, with a little superstitious magic and a lot of healing through art. (And a gorgeously rendered Northern California setting.)

Other than a couple of hamhanded moments where the book feels like it’s almost speaking a moral directly to the audience, I loved this book, totally corny lost-in-art-creation and destroyed-by-fated-love moments and all. It’s heartbreaking but hopeful. (Also, one of the two romances is a very cute gay romance.)

2. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster CallsI don’t know if I necessarily am more invested in the writing of A Monster Calls over the next couple of ranked books, but its imagery is just so memorable. As is the premise. So you can maybe thank Jim Kay’s illustrations (and Siobhan Dowd’s idea) for this spot on the list.

This book is about a young boy, Conor, whose mother is in the process of dying from cancer. As he struggles to cope with this, an old yew tree wakes up and walks to his window in the guise of a monster who wishes to tell him three stories. By the end of the third, the boy will have to tell his own.

This story will haunt you with the protagonist’s rage at the inevitability of loss, and the way that the horror of death mutes the horror of a monster coming to call.

3. History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

History is All You Left MeSilvera’s most recent book, They Both Die at the End, might also, arguably, be about grief: grief as the slow process of mourning yourself and being mourned while you’re still alive. But this book was also arguably the better of the two, so let’s stick with it.

History is All You Left Me is about Griffin, who lost his best friend and ex-boyfriend, someone he thought was “endgame,” and now someone whose recent boyfriend he has to deal with during the peak of his grief.

My favourite aspect of this book is that it doesn’t need an antagonist; the characters are all emotional for various reasons and make a series of messy decisions that hurt one another, because they’re going through a lot. They’re still all likeable and human, but the conflict grows out of understandable issues they have situationally. Also, like most books framed around grief, this book calls into question who the person gone really is. Unlike some other books, it doesn’t try to have a splashy answer to a mystery, which is a nice change of pace. (Some mysteries are earned. Some just feel like manufactured late-game twists.)

4. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Please Ignore Vera DietzI might like this book more than others once I sit on it a while, but for now, this is where it appears.

This book is about Vera, who has recently lost her best-friend-and-maybe-more, Charlie, but who is also struggling to reconcile two Charlies in her mind: the one she grew up with and fell for, and the Charlie she hated weeks before he was dead. She’s also struggling with what she might know that others don’t about the circumstances of his death, what she has and hasn’t done to save him, and her own life, including a mother who left and a father who wants her to work herself nearly to death.

This book has some moments of magical realism, some moments of digression into the heads of other characters and even inanimate objects, and a lot of inner sarcasm from Vera. That humour and sense of whimsy kept it fresh, and the conflict of not knowing how to feel about the death made it different from other negotiations of grief. I don’t know how invested I was in what happened to Charlie, to be honest, so that mystery wasn’t as interesting to me, but I did really care about Vera by the end.

5. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are OkayWe’re still on the side of the wire of “books I enjoyed and generally like,” but this is about the last one, I think.

The protagonist of this book, Marin, ran across the country to avoid facing the death of her grandfather and caregiver. But now she has to face Mabel, her former best friend who has travelled all that way before winter break to find out why it was she ran away.

We Are Okay is a slow, thoughtful book that dwells on quiet moments between characters. There’s a splash of queer romance in here, but it doesn’t take over the story, keeping the working-through-grief in the foreground. I feel like this was ultimately too short to give me the fleshed-out relationships between people that would’ve made it really hit home for me, but the collection of moments it does provide are moving and hopeful, if melancholy.

6. The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is EverywhereAaaand now we’re in the territory of books I just plain didn’t like.

The Sky is Everywhere is…not the worst. But it’s not great. It still has the sense of setting and magic that I’ll Give You the Sun has, and that’s pretty much all of the charm of the story (and a lot of what makes Nelson’s writing special, I think). But the rest, about a girl named Lennie who has lost her sister and there’s a mystery and also a love triangle where one angle is her dead sister’s boyfriend, is mired in melodrama that bogs down the more interesting plot points.

Also Lennie’s poetry is just…sentences of dialogue broken up a little bit. I’m sorry, but I can’t get on board with it.

7. Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters to the LostThis book is readable, but in the sense that you would watch a movie like P.S. I Love You, which is not necessarily good but has a bit of a premise to drive it and a lot of obvious emotional manipulation to serve up a good cry.

Yeah. So. Juliet leaves letters by her mother’s grave. Declan finds and responds to them. At first, they remain anonymous to one another, and they don’t exactly like each other at school. But as Juliet unravels the mysteries of Declan and her mother, they get to know each other better. Or something.

This book leans a lot on tropes and clichés. (I get that people who died are inherently mysterious because you can’t ask them anything anymore, but sheesh, does everyone die with a huge secret?) I read it and I didn’t hate it, but I also won’t keep it.

8. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican DaughterI wanted to like this book a lot, but in the end, it was a struggle to get through.

Julia’s older sister Olga passed away in an accident. Now Julia has the pressure of her mother’s expectations solely on her, and she’s convinced that Olga had a secret. She also has a romance, wants to go to college, jumps around in time a lot, has potentially sketchy relatives (?), has friends who may have serious home life issues, etc.

This book abided by the trope (a big old secret/mystery for the dead person), but left the grief/death aspects so far in the backdrop of an extremely cluttered story that the reveal of it felt like it lacked any impact. Olga’s death felt pretty secondary to everything else going on in this story, so it felt almost weird to use it as an inciting incident for this particular story. This book about grief was…not about grief, but also not particularly about anything else, while still being short enough that it couldn’t quite encompass all the things it was trying to do.


What are your favourite YA reads about grief? (Okay, so favourite is a strong word when we’re talking about books to cry to. Um, the ones that hit home with you the most?) Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon! (But maybe less enthusiastically than that? I still have books about grief to read.)

Monthly Reads: November 2017, Part 1

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

Since I’m trying to read 30 books in 30 days this month, the prospect of doing Monthly Reads all in one post seemed…unwise. So here’s the round-up for the first two weeks! I’m behind by a few because of a weekend trip, so just ten for now. (Still better than a lot of my recent entire months, so…that’s something.)

Also: I probably won’t review all of these books in detail, since that’s a lot of books to be chewing over at once. Buuut you’ll probably hear more about some of them, so I’ll come back and link up when that happens!

Without further ado…

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay

This is a book about the grief of a girl who lost her grandfather, her only living parental figure, and ran away immediately across the country. She now has to face the best friend she fled from and face what it was that made her run away.

This was a slow book, but the quiet, deliberate moments in it felt lovely. If you prefer character-driven to plot-driven stories, you might like this one; it is pretty short, though, so it does lack some character-building that might’ve made the big moments more emotionally hard-hitting.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

This is a romantic comedy set-up in a slightly surreal world, or at least town; where our protagonist lives, the quarterback is the homecoming queen, and the popular kids in school take bets on how long each of his boyfriends will last. (I think we’re closer to that world where gender and sexuality minorities are totally usual, but this book was from 2003, when it was still a huge controversy to try to bring your same-gender date to a school dance. In some places, I’m sure it still is.)

The town in the book is charming and so are some of the characters, but the protagonist here is pretty dull, bordering on a little creepy when he makes a mess of things with his love interest, which I guess is how romantic comedies roll. This was a quick and fun enough read, but the author’s voice worked better in Two Boys Kissing.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion RulesThis book is a dystopian about a post-environmental breakdown world where AI has/have taken over, so that human states can’t go to war with one another (usually for petty things like “drinking water”) unless they sacrifice the family child hostage they’ve handed over to the AI commune. Greta, our protagonist, is one of these hostages. She doesn’t really engage in loads of action and actually, her love triangle isn’t much of one, so this book is more about the worldbuilding.

Part of that worldbuilding is a villain who’s actually pretty fun, and I’m not usually a particular villain fan, so this book surprised me (for that, and for choosing to be slower and not have a big angsty love triangle).

Where Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse

Where Futures EndThis one was a series of five vignettes spinning off into a speculative sci-fi/fantasy apocalypse. The characters are relatable, but the stories themselves are a bit anticlimactic, and the worldbuilding is interesting but the premise doesn’t spend too much time making sense.

I haven’t written a review for this, but it’s a book that’ll end up on my going-away pile, so it’s not really one I would recommend, even though I am actively seeking sci-fi and stories written in different ways.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

BintiThis book is a wonderfully imaginative though painfully short sci-fi adventure. It’s hard to review, because I’m not sure what else to say about it.

This little book is very good at being inventive without entirely losing the reader, even though it doesn’t spend much time explaining. It’s also good at getting you engaged with the main character in a short amount of pages. But it’s also very brief, so much so that it’s hard for details to sink in and so that it feels that some things are missing. Still, this has plenty to enjoy and it doesn’t take up much time, obviously.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the RageRomy was raped by the golden boy, and now she’s been ostracized by everyone for speaking up. But it’s not over yet.

I’m not sure I got as engrossed by this one as Speak or The Female of the Species, but as books about sexual assault go, I still felt like this did well. It expresses the ground-down feeling of feeling like you’ll never be believed by anyone. And Romy is socially isolated by others, but she also isolates herself out of mistrust. The author gets that across well, and I really liked the use of makeup as armour.

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

What We SawOne of Kate’s former friends, Stacey, reports members of the winning small-town basketball team for rape. The school turns again Stacey, but Kate was at that party before her more-than-friend, Ben, drove her home. She has to know what happened, and the truth sets her on a path that will change the way she sees everything.

I followed up a book about sexual assault with another book about sexual assault because I hate feeling happiness. This book was more heavy-handed than All the Rage and other books on the subject, but it brings to light a lot of what’s insidious about rape culture. And while on this subject I’m usually most interested in reading from the perspective of the survivor about their recovery, this was a pretty good read from the perspective of “it could’ve been me.”

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Please Ignore Vera DietzA contemporary about a senior girl who has always been in love with her best friend, but began to hate him before he died. She knows things about his death that she hasn’t told anyone yet, but Charlie being gone isn’t the only thing she has to face.

Plot-wise, this book didn’t really have a lot going for it, but the writing style of this (including digressions from a pagoda) was delightful, dripping with sarcasm and embracing the magical realism of having your dead friend alive in your burger pickles. This wasn’t a remember-it-forever read, probably, but it was fun and made me feel like picking up this author again sometime.

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Of Metal and WishesThis is the lesser-discussed of Phantom of the Opera retellings, and it honestly surprised me? It was pretty enjoyable, other than the constant threat of sexual assault hanging over the main character, which was…no.

Other than that, it did well at capturing the main draws of the story (the protagonist’s conflicted feelings about the Ghost, the Ghost’s inner turmoil and loneliness) while enhancing others (the Raoul-type character was far more interesting). I might’ve rated this highly, but dangling the constant threat of sexual assault from basically every man just…ugh.

What Light by Jay Asher

What LightSierra and her family travel south every year to run a tree lot in California. She leaves her friends and life behind for her Christmas season friends, and this year, she meets a boy with a tragic past who she really likes.

This book was honestly kind of boring? The writing felt a bit flat, and other than the unique and kind of romantic Christmas tree lot setting, this was just…nah. (Also the novel spends less time than I would like on the business of tree selling and the lives of the people who do it, although maybe that’s just me.) The book spent a lot of time amping up conflict that wasn’t really conflict and reminding of us of various characters who didn’t have personalities so much as roles in the story. I mostly made my way through this because I had already started, it was a second chance book, and I was behind on my book count. So…yes.


How’s your November reading going? (Or writing, if you’re a Nanowrimo participant.) What’s the best thing you’ve read (or written) lately? Thanks for reading, and I’ll speak to you again soon!

Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

My third read of this month was a dystopian with a protagonist with two love interests, which sounds potentially dreadfully boring but actually worked out decently well?

Yeah, let’s just get right to it.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

This cover is okay. Its relation to the book feels a little loose, to be honest with you, but from a design perspective, it feels fine. This is not the commentary you come looking for, probably.

The Scorpion Rules

The Scorpion Rules is a dystopian about a far-flung future where an AI has taken over and, post-icecaps melting and other global disasters, has “outlawed” war. Small wars are still waged, but sacrifices must be made: any ruler of a state must give up their own child as a hostage, and that child is forfeit if they engage in war. The moral complication of this: that means that states who have war declared on them also sacrifice children; it’s also complicated by the fact that these wars are often over rights to basic necessities like drinking water.

Our protagonist is Greta, who grew up used to the idea that she’s a hostage and who has tried to be very royal and austere about all of it. She’s grown up in a sort of commune where the “Children of Peace” learn and work together, farming the land while constantly monitored by a straight-up Panopticon. That more or less works for her until her friend Sidney dies, a defiant boy named Elián shows up, and she realizes the suffering her friends have gone through—her best friend Da-Xia in particular.

This book is a little slow for this type of book; it’s not exactly action-packed. It spends more time on worldbuilding, which is fine because the world is relatively interesting. I do wish we had more time to get to know the characters, because the other Children of Peace Greta lives with feel only shakily fleshed out, despite their importance to the story. That definitely feels like a weakness.

The “villain” (not a straightforward villain here) has a fun and interesting voice and set of motivations, though, which I don’t find happens overly often. A lot of people are inclined to love villains; I’m really not one of them, but I found Talis pretty interesting here, so that was a significant draw to keep reading. His logic, though ruthless, is pragmatic, and his continuous use of humour and pop culture references in his proclamations is pretty charming.

There’s also a nice twist on the typical dystopian here in terms of the love interest situation. Greta’s love life is pretty secondary to the rest of what’s going on, and also plays out a lot differently than usual. There’s no “love triangle” in terms of lots of jealousy and drama; there are just people who care for each other, and do some kissing, and are more or less understanding about it. There’s also some queer romance, so yay!

Greta’s “asleepness,” for lack of a better word, does stretch credibility to some extent, because she thinks back on children she’s seen dragged away screaming to die through no fault of their own, so the fact that she hasn’t much questioned the morality of the world around her (and whether or not she’s a kind of slave) seems…messy. There are also definitely some complicated ethics in this story that it feels like the novel doesn’t want to fully dwell on, like decisions the characters can make that might lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, or the notion of sympathizing with torturers.

Honestly, I feel like other than providing a great villain and an interesting world, this book stumbled quite a bit in pacing and developing its characters. But it also didn’t follow the typical plot to the letter and overturned some tired dystopian tropes, to the point where I’m interested in where it ended up, and I might pick up the sequel to see what happens. I hear it’s pretty different, so that could be good or bad, but it will take place in this world and the villain should remain a part of it, so I might like it?

Overall:


Any favourite dystopians of your own? Shout out your recommendations in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!